I’d been eagerly awaiting a copy of Bill Samuel’s book on moose and ticks, White as a Ghost, so when DIFW Wildlife Biologist Nate Webb dropped it off at my house, I dove right in. DIFW’s Wildlife Division Director Judy Camuso had recommended the book to me.
I’ve been advocating for an aggressive attack on the ticks which are killing so many of Maine’s moose, and Judy thought I needed to know more about this problem. After reading the book, I am actually encouraged that there might be something we can do, although no one has come up with a way to save our moose yet.
Dr. Samuel is a retired researcher and college professor in Alberta, Canada, who has received many awards and published more than 130 papers while serving on lots of committees dealing with wildlife and wildlife diseases. And while this book was published in 2004, it is still very informative and pertinent to our moose/tick problem.
The book covers this problem comprehensively, from a history of and the life of winter ticks to behavioral strategies used by moose to evade winter ticks to lots of research about the ticks’ deadly impact on moose.
Dr. Samuel actually suggests that hunters should kill more moose. “As moose and tick numbers build, moose harvest by hunters is far more appropriate and humane than invasive harvest by winter ticks. We should be able to moderate some of the damage caused by winter ticks for moose by managing moose at below die-off levels,” he writes.
DIFW has actually suggested awarding moose calf permits, due to the fact that ticks are killing lots of calves. And they believe that the problem will not be as bad if the number of moose in Maine decreases.
I was particularly interested to learn that moose may spend too much time grooming (tearing out their hair to deal with itching and ticks) than eating in March and April.
My suggestion was to put out feeding stations and when moose came to them, we could spray them and kill the ticks. This book didn’t suggest this, nor has it been tried anyplace, and I know Maine’s exceptional moose biologist Lee Kantar is skeptical, but I wish he would try this someplace to see if it would work.
In addition to the excellent and comprehensive information in this book, there are many great photos of moose and ticks. And the book’s title comes from those moose that have rubbed off most of their hair, leaving themselves a ghostly gray.
At the end of the book, Dr. Samuel sums up my concerns: “For certain, if nothing is done, winter ticks will remain the main hunters of moose.”